2012 NFL Preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were extremely busy during the offseason. They fired Raheem Morris after he lost total control of his team last season. The Buccaneers lost their final 10-games by an average of 18.5 points. 

Tampa Bay hired Greg Schiano as their ninth head coach in franchise history. He was the head coach at the University of Rutgers for the past 11 seasons. He helped turn their program around and Rutgers quickly became one of the better teams in the Big East. Rutgers has competed in seven bowl games in their 140-year history. Schiano coached six of those seven bowl games, and went 5-1 in bowl games.

He was a defensive assistant for the Chicago Bears from 1996-1997. He was named the defensive backs coach for the Bears in 1998, before leaving to take over as the defensive coordinator for The University of Miami in 1999. Miami ranked in the top-15 in total defense during both seasons under Schiano. 

Tampa Bay was one of the most aggressive teams during the offseason. They signed two-time Pro-Bowl wide receiver, Vincent Jackson, to a five-year deal worth $55.5 million. 

They added one of the best guards in the NFL. Tampa Bay signed Carl Nicks to a five-year deal worth $47.5 million. He is a two-time Pro-Bowler and was named to the All-Pro First Team last season as a member of the Saints. 

The Bucs added cornerback, Eric Wright, to help out their weak secondary. Wright signed a five-year deal worth $37.5 million. He had 74 tackles, four interceptions, 16 passes deflected, and one forced fumble for the Detroit Lions last year.

Tampa Bay also had a very good draft. Their two first-round selections added some depth to positions they are very slim at. Tampa Bay traded down to seventh overall and selected Mark Barron. 

The safety from Alabama was a two-time All-American and was a three-time All-SEC First Team selection. Barron was one of the center pieces on Alabama's top ranked defense last season, and played a huge role in shutting out LSU in the BCS National Championship. It was the second National Championship Barron won during his four-year career at Bama'.

They traded back into the first round and selected Doug Martin with the 31st overall pick. Martin was one of the best running backs coming out of college. He rushed for 2,559 yards and 28 TD's over his last two seasons at Boise St. He averaged over 5.5 yards/carry during his four-year career at Boise. He should battle LeGarrette Blount for the top spot in the Bucs' backfield. 

The organization was not done dealing during the draft. They traded up to get Lavonte David with the 58th overall pick. In his two years at Nebraska he finished with 285 total tackles, 11.5 sacks, one interception, three forced fumbles, and 11 passes deflected. The guy has a knack for finding the ball. He averaged 10.5 tackles/game during his two-year career at Nebraska. He was a two-time All-American and two-time All-Big 12 First Team selection. 

The Bucs will depend heavily on their top three draft picks this season. Barron and David should be starters from day one, while Doug Martin is expected to split carries with Blount and will be their third down back. 

Tampa Bay's success this season falls on the right arm of Josh Freeman. He is entering his fourth season out of Kansas State. There was a lot of pressure on Freeman entering last season. He was coming off a stellar 2010 season when he threw for nearly 3,500 yards and had 25 TD's to only six interceptions. He led the Bucs to a 10-6 record, and they barely missed the playoffs.

A lot was expected out of Freeman entering the 2011 season. He could not live up to the hype and had a disappointing season. He threw for over 3,500 yards but had 22 interceptions to only 16 TD's. 

The franchise still has high hopes for Freeman entering this year. They gave him some help on offense adding Jackson to help bolster a young receiving corp. 

Mike Williams moves over to being the number-two receiver, which should help him entering his third-season in the NFL out of Syracuse. Vincent Jackson should see a lot of double teams and will leave Williams in single coverage. 

Arrelious Benn, Preston Parker, Tiquan Underwood, and Dallas Clark should all be vital pieces for the Bucs' passing attack this season.

LeGarrette Blount and Doug Martin will be two crucial pieces for the Buccaneers on offense this year. Martin should give Blount a run for his money for the top spot on the depth chart, which should fuel Blount to be determined entering the 2012 season. These two form one of the best young tandems in the NFL.

Furthermore, Tampa Bay has one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. The left-side of the O-Line is one of the best duos in the league. Donald Penn and Carl Nicks should open up a ton of holes for their rushing attack, but more importantly, protect Josh Freeman's blindside. 

Jeremy Zuttah is one of the most dynamic offensive lineman in the league, and was awarded a four-year deal in the offseason. He has started nine career games at center, 30 games at left guard, and five games at right guard. He will be the center this season after they released Jeff Faine. 

Two-time Pro-Bowler Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood round up the right-side for the Buccaneers offensive line. Their offensive line is the biggest strength for them entering the 2012 season. 

Tampa Bay is depending heavily on a young defensive team that had a ton of problems last season. Head Coach Greg Schiano is hoping the on-field experience last season will help them entering this year. They were the third worst defense in total defense allowing 394.4 yards/game. They were last in the NFL allowing 30.9 points/game. 

Their secondary is their biggest strength on defense. Adding Eric Wright through free agency and selecting Mark Barron seventh overall will help bolster their weak secondary. Wright and Aqib Talib form a nice duo at corner. They have combined for 30 career interceptions. 

Wright starting at corner moves Ronde Barber to free safety. He will be mentoring Mark Barron to help solidify the secondary. Barber is entering his 16th season as a Buccaneer and will be the leader on defense. He is a seven-time Pro-Bowler and is the only player in NFL history to have at least 25 career sacks and 40 career interceptions. 

The expectations are through the roof for Barron. Expect him to contend for "Defensive Rookie of the Year" this season. He has all the tools to make a huge impact for the Bucs' defense from day one. 

A lot of pressure will be put on the Bucs' young front seven. They have a ton of talent, but it is time to live up to expectations if they want to contend in the NFC South. Michael Bennett, Gerald McCoy, Roy Miller, and Adrian Clayborn round up the front four. 

McCoy, the former first round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, has been battling injuries his first two-seasons. He has missed 13 of his first 32 games. There are a ton of expectations for the former Oklahoma Sooner star. If he can stay healthy he is capable of being one of the best defensive tackles in the league. 

Clayborn was one of the bright spots on the defense last season. He led Tampa Bay with 7.5 sacks as a rookie. He was the Bucs' first round selection in the 2011 NFL Draft out of Iowa. A lot of pressure will be put on Clayborn and McCoy to lead the way for the Bucs' defensive line.

The linebacking corp is one of the youngest in the NFL. Inside linebacker Mason Foster is entering his second season. He had 84 tackles in his rookie campaign. Quincy Black and Lavonte David will be starting on the outside. Black is one of the veterans on this team, entering his sixth season. 

David has a lot of expectations entering his rookie season. This will be the weakness on defense entering the 2012 season, but if the young group can mesh well together, this could be a much improved defense.

If the Buccaneers want to contend in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, they will need a big season from Josh Freeman. If the Freeman from 2010 shows up they will have a chance to be a very talented young team. If the Freeman from 2011 shows up they will finish in last place in the NFC South for the second consecutive season. 

It all starts with their quarterback and he gets a fresh start with a new coaching staff in tact entering the 2012 campaign. 

New offensive coordinator, Mike Sullivan, played a vital part in Eli Manning's career. He was a wide receivers coach for the New York Giants from 2004-2009 and was promoted to be the quarterbacks coach before the 2010 season. Eli Manning is coming off his best season as a pro and Sullivan played a huge part in his success.

Greg Schiano could end up being the perfect coach for this young group. He is a great motivator, and will look to make this team believers in his first season. He will depend heavily on his strong offensive line to help out the rushing attack and make Josh Freeman's job that much easier. 

The Buccaneers have added some good pieces entering the 2012 season, but they are still a young team. They will need to make a big step forward if they want to contend for a playoff spot. If Tampa Bay finishes close to .500 it will be a success for them, anything more will be icing on the cake. 

Tampa Bay has the fifth easiest schedule heading into the 2012 season, so that could bode well for Schiano in his first season calling shots in Tampa Bay. 

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